Becoming a better person for the world one AIT experience at a time – Jofer B. Asilum
We would like to warmly congratulate Jofer B. Asilum, Master’s student in the Natural Resources Management (NRM) program, August 2021 batch for receiving DAAD Scholarship at AIT. The following is his experience sharing, which may serve as a guideline for those interested in applying to study with us at the Department of Development and Sustainability, AIT, Thailand.
“With the lessons, perspectives, and experiences that I acquired from AIT and from Thailand, I strongly believe that in the future, I can actively participate in raising the profile of environmental issues in the Philippine development agenda.“— Jofer B. Asilum, DAAD Scholar 2021
Becoming a better person for the world one AIT experience at a time
I grew up in the Philippine island province of Masbate, a tropical paradise where some of the nation’s best-kept natural wonders are found. Amidst this resource abundance, however, as a child, I have always wondered why there is poverty among my fellow people. This boggling paradox led me to a vision and a promise that I will do my best to become a person, a leader who can help in uplifting people’s lives, beginning in my home province.
In my quest to actualize this vision, I realized that any advocacy is not a spur-of-the-moment process. It is something that should be worked on for it to be sustained and for it to create positive ripple effects. And a crucial part of working is learning more about one’s advocacy. Thus, I embarked on a journey to study natural resources management to understand how we, especially marginalized communities, can benefit more from the gifts of our environment in a sustainable manner. I originally wanted to study in a Western country, but I thought, if I want to solve a problem present in a developing country like the Philippines, I have to go to a place that serves as a regional hub for sharing of ideas and solutions for the issues of the developing part of the world. And there is no better place like this than Thailand. When I saw a social media advertisement about the Asian Institute of Technology, and learned that it is among the world’s top universities that contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG1: No Poverty, and it offers the prestigious DAAD Scholarship, I knew that I found the institution that I was looking for.
As a student, I brought with me the experience and perspective of a sustainable development advocate who worked closely with the marginalized communities of my home province in the Philippines. Through class discussions and through interactions with Thai environmental defenders during site visits in some of their country’s biodiversity hotspots, I learned a lot of best practices that have great potential to enhance the ecological integrity of my home country while uplifting the lives of its poor people. These include the Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom’s Design Principles which guide institutions in managing natural resources in a way that is participatory and empowers the people and the great role of tourism in encouraging biodiversity conservation and supporting poverty alleviation goals.
Of course, while studying at AIT is my main purpose in Thailand, I also had my own share of moments experiencing its unique and diverse culture. In Bangkok and in Ayutthaya, I saw how Thailand is a nation of rivers. In my eyes, in almost every aspect of Thai society, from transportation to tourism and most importantly to its culture, their rivers always play a key role. Never did I see a place where almost every corner, including at AIT, has a waterway, natural or manmade. And I clearly saw why: to distribute water efficiently for the growth of vegetation and to keep a national economy running, or should I say, “flowing.” As a Filipino, I got inspired, but honestly also envious because the Philippines, especially its capital, Metro Manila used to be a society of rivers as well. We have so many natural waterways in our capital metropolis, yet we only use these almost merely as drainage. This is to the point that there were times that we have also treated them merely as a flood hazard. Nevertheless, with the lessons, perspectives, and experiences that I acquired from AIT and from Thailand, I strongly believe that in the future, I can actively participate in raising the profile of environmental issues in the Philippine development agenda. Basically, I am also sure that I will go back to the Philippines closer to the ideal person that I aim to be.
My advice for the applicants
Now that it is once again time for AIT to look for its next batch of DAAD Scholars, here are my advice for the applicants:
They are also looking for people with a purpose who will actually turn this knowledge into action and lead a better future for everyone.Jofer B. Asilum, advicing for the applicants
First, do not just know your passions.
Know the purpose behind your passions. DAAD and AIT are not only looking for intellectuals who will contribute new knowledge to the world. Most importantly, they are also looking for people with a purpose who will actually turn this knowledge into action and lead a better future for everyone. Make this purpose the foundation of your studies, research, and career. Make this purpose your anchor in presenting yourself as the best candidate that DAAD and AIT are looking for.
Second, organize how you will apply, and do it early!
Organizing begins with a lot of research. Do not just know the step-by-step application process; be familiar with your target program, its priority research topics, your potential mentors, the research facilities at AIT, and the goals of DAAD, among many others. By familiarizing yourself with these things, you will be able to calibrate your prospect study and research plan in line with the strengths of AIT.
And third, be willing to be mentored.
I believe that a true scholar-leader always heeds the voices of others. Ask for comments and advice about your application essays. You can do so with your former professors, your former managers, or even with your friends, especially those who are embarking on the same career path as you do. You may consider their suggestions, and revise and finalize your application. If you know these tips already by heart, I bet that you have what it takes to be a DAAD Scholar at AIT.
And for that, as early as now, I congratulate you and I am already excited for your own journey. I hope to see you one day, so we can join forces and be the leaders that can help make the world a better place for all.
About the Student
Jofer B. Asilum is a DAAD Scholar from the Philippines who is currently finishing his Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources Management and a minor in Agricultural Systems and Engineering at the Asian Institute of Technology. Prior to this, he graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman with the degree Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (cum laude) in 2016 and with a Graduate Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning in 2020. He leads the non-government organization that he founded Damgo Naton Youth Organization for Sustainable Development, Inc. You may contact him at jbasilum[at]alum.up.edu.ph.
Congratulations again to Jofer B. Asilum, Master’s student in the NRM program, August 2021 batch for your experience sharing with us. We wish you a successful journey ahead in all your future ventures and endeavors. We would also like to offer our full encouragement and support to you every step of the way.